Shared Values of Self-Made Millionaires

Human Values

There’s an interesting article posted recently on LinkedIn Pulse. Jeff Haden put this in his post headline, making it almost instantly viral:

“8 of 10 Self-Made Millionaires Were Not ‘A’ Students. Instead, They Share 1 Trait.”

The trait, of course, is their willingness to learn.

While I agree with Jeff Hadden, that is not news. Similar observations were made before.

According to Tom Corley’s study of “Rich Habits”:

“85% of millionaires read two or more books a month that help them grow.”

Indeed, Elon Musk, one of today’s most admirable business leaders is known for having taught himself – literally! – rocket science by reading books. Moreover, according to his brother, Elon used to read two books per day when he was a kid.

And arguably it was Confucius who was the first to document this:

“Men of superior mind, busy themselves first in getting to the root of things; and when they have succeeded in this, the right course is open to them.”

While I agree with Jeff Haden, I do have some news to share: the key to success is not this trait – or any trait for that matter. Traits are habitual patterns of behavior, thought, and emotion. They do not determine what you are (or whether you are a good student or not) because traits themselves are determined by your basic values. You can deliberately change your behavior, and thus change your visible traits, but it may take many years before your values change, if ever.

Likewise, you may force yourself to read two books a day and attract a lot of cheers (and sneers) from your colleagues, but that will not make you Elon Musk.

It is surprising that the basic Human Values theory, created by a quiet genius Dr. Shalom Schwartz,  remains largely unknown to the general public and by all means is considered less “sexy” than numerous MBTI, the Big Five, DISC, 16PF, etc., etc. tests – all the way back in history to astrology and phrenology.

If in doubt, read the book by the incredible Annie Murphy Paul “The Cult of Personality”.

Research shows that good students, i.e. those who would normally get better grades, are usually high on Tradition and Conformance values, while outstanding business leaders are high on Self-Direction and Stimulation values. These values happen to be on the opposite sides of the values map. With all values being, well, values, i.e. being positive by definition, that does not mean that someone is a better person; the dominant values, or rather your values’ scale, determine in which fields this person has a better chance for success.

When values profiles of several individuals are compared, their congruence is a good indicator of their teamwork efficiency. Depending on the tasks, different individual values may be more conducive to success, but the overall team success is more probable if the team members’ values are congruent. Proximate locations on the values map is the first indicator – although there’s more about values congruence than could be explained in this short introduction.

One of my classmates was an “A” student, straight A’s, 100.00%, while he never looked like a geek or an antisocial alien. Once, invited to a radio show because of this, he was taken aback by the expected question, but his answer surprised the radio host: “I do not know. I have always had straight A’s.” That is, having straight A’s was a tradition for my friend, the proper way to behave. Granted, he was a bright student, but his values were not fueled by the desire to get to the root of things. I would not call that a trait either. And while still being a very nice guy, he has never made more than an average salary. BTW, money is not a driver for him either.

Stories about academic failures of famous college dropouts are exactly the opposite, and they seem to be a norm: Travis Kalanick, Steve Jobs, Michael Dell, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg …. – self-made millionaires happen to have very different drivers. The really successful entrepreneurs are motivated by the need to develop and find something new and exciting on a daily basis.

My most incredible discovery while researching on this topic: Elon Musk’s values profile makes it obvious why Tesla is NOT and WILL NEVER BE LEAN.

Because people high on Openness to Change will not substitute common sense with a standardized policy – which Lean methodology is in essence. It just does not happen to the stars in this part of the celestial sphere. Most likely, Musk will get to the root of it – read Deming’s seminal texts, rehash the Toyota Production System basic – and eventually break away from the pack even further, surprising the rest of us with a disruptive initiative in employee engagement, which Deming’s original breakthrough was in essence.

The super successful guys are not motivated by the need to be known as a high achiever or a person with power. The power-hungry usually “reside” in the 6 to 9 o’clock area of the map;  can make a career in management – but will hardly rich the level of the extremely self-driven individuals of Steve Job’s caliber, although they are quite capable of becoming a source of inspiration for some leadership scholars, an achievement as well.

Ironically, another research demonstrated that it is the career managers from the 6-to-9 o’clock Self-Enhancement area who are mostly buying the “green cars.” However, the Self-Transcendence values are exactly opposite to their real values, and buying an electric car is nothing but a statement and a correct “career move” for them. And it is a power sign: electric cars are not an affordable option for those who have really dedicated themselves to fight the climate change. At least not until Elon Musk launches an affordable model.

Check my recent crowdsourcing of Elon Musk’s profile:  the guy is an outlier, not just “high” on Stimulation and Self-Direction values (which happens to in the 10 o’clock area of the map that my CLCTVR 2.0 tool generates.
values map

A couple of readers asked me to check if their values profiles were congruent with Elon’s – see their stars on the map. Their expected congruence with Elon is not that high – but should that come as a surprise? Elon is an outlier. Perhaps Steve Jobs’s star would have been close to his while it was alight…

Sounds interesting? Read more about Elon Musk’s “profile crowdsourcing” here.

What other celebrity profile could we “crowdsource” – and perhaps compare to Elon’s? Leave your suggestion in the comments below.

Finally, if you want to assess your team’s potential, contact me here or on LinkedIn.

Canoeing with Mintzberg

Canoeing with Mintzberg

The CoachingOurselves Reflections 2017 – Rebalancing Society conference was an outstanding 3-day event filled with ideas, presentations and passion shared with us by the brightest minds: Henry MintzbergPhilip KotlerDan PonterfractEd ScheinJonathan GoslingMitch Joel and many other prominent thinkers, businesspeople and coaches.

This true feast of sustainable leadership was concluded with a savory dessert – The Great Canadian Canoe Trip, five hours in double canoes going down the Devil’s River in Mont-Tremblant National Park.

Now, mentally going through the experience again, I think that this trip in the end of the conference was more than just for pleasure and relaxation. The unbridled nature, the canoes, and the river flow – all have their profound role in the understanding and “internalization” of the worldview experienced during the main event.

Here are my key takeaways from the Canoe Trip.

1.      Key safety rules in the canoe are familiar to every manager:

  • Avoid sudden movements.
  • Go with the flow.

Nothing new, but that does not mean “don’t rock the boat”; it’s just that any disruption creates unnecessary risks and may lead to an accident, and is not necessary when you are on the right course.

2.      The real leader in the canoe, the helmsman, is the paddler in the stern. He is the more experienced one, doing the steering. Leading from behind, he will be looking over the front paddler’s shoulder all the time, and if the latter does not have a small frame and wears a hat, the helmsman will not see much. Continue reading “Canoeing with Mintzberg”

How can I improve my skills in listening and how can I practice my speaking?

Practice makes perfect.

Practice speaking and listening – and use technology to analyze your skills and measure the progress.

Sounds sophisticated? Not at all.

All you need is a simple speech recorder or just your smartphone. Make it a habit to record all substantial conversations that you have during the day, then allocate ample time to listen to the recordings and do a conscious “flight debriefing.”

You will be amazed.

That happens pretty much to everybody because you have never heard yourself “from the outside.” You will notice some obvious mistakes or mannerisms that sound so … well, disgusting, that you will not need much effort to get rid of them (like talking too much, interrupting, using pleonasms, periphrasis, discourse markers, grandiloquence, or being excessively magniloquent – just like I am now).

Additional benefit: you will retain much more from the conversations. That’s a good thing, especially when the discussion is important, and you have no chance to make notes. Next time you’ll impress your counterparts with your attention to detail.

One caveat though. You have to be discrete, i.e. your recording device must be hidden. Obviously, when you start openly recording the conversations all the participants do not talk naturally (yourself including) or do not talk at all. Another thing to bear in mind: this may be illegal in some states…

(Originally answered on Quora)

How can Elon Musk put in 80-100 hours a week and still have a life?

(Originally answered on Quora)

Most probably you want to share your surprise that Elon Musk, who reportedly stayed overnight at Tesla site on many occasions, still looks and behaves like a normal sociable person, gives interviews and is altogether in good health and good spirits, right?

This is because he is fortunate enough to have a solution to the ageless dilemma of “work-life” balance.

For most people, this problem exists, and exactly in this form – work vs. life – implying that the negative portion of your existence, called ‘work’, is balanced out by the positive ‘life’. When the balance is in place, then the negative impact that work leaves on your personality and health is cured by the positive emotions you get from what happens after work. Or that is how the unfortunate majority sees it.

 There’s not much of an overlap between the Life and Work, and as this overlap is not considered healthy, we are advised by holistic gurus that we must disconnect, shut off etc. and not mix the two. Hence, there’s not enough room to have both, we either displace one at the expense of the other, or meticulously separate them, having not enough of either as a result. The rest is a multitude of ‘chores’, neutral in their nature; we just take them for granted, neither good nor bad. Continue reading “How can Elon Musk put in 80-100 hours a week and still have a life?”

What are the best tips and tricks for increasing productivity and time management?

Here are a few off the top of my head. I am glad you’ve asked because it’s good to go through the list every once in a while.

1. Always have a plan. Thinking before doing requires some time and internal discipline but gives you an edge over the “doers” who act without thinking. Continue reading “What are the best tips and tricks for increasing productivity and time management?”

Reflections 2017 Global Conference


To learn more about the critical role Leadership Development professionals play in society, come to the Rebalancing Society Event, hosted by Henry Mintzberg, Philip Kotler, Mitch Joel and many others.

““Leadership, like swimming cannot be learned by reading about it.” Henry Mintzberg.

Register to see Henry and other thought leaders at Reflections 2017 Global Conference!

What are the identifiers of a bad project?

bad project

To answer this question (asked on Quora), we need to define the meaning of “bad” in “bad project.”  As an old project management bit of wisdom goes, there are three main reasons why projects fail (and thus may be identified as “bad projects”):

  1. Requirements
  2. Requirements
  3. Requirements

Continue reading “What are the identifiers of a bad project?”

Dan Ponterfract: “FLAT ARMY”

Required Reading

Over the weekend, I have read Dan Pontefract’s book “Flat Army.” I was looking forward to reading an inspirational text about change management, corporate culture improvement and employee engagement, but the book appears to take the reader further. Continue reading “Dan Ponterfract: “FLAT ARMY””

Why Most Lean Six Sigma Projects Fail?

why lean projects fail


Stats indicate that the success rate for Lean initiatives is hardly over 5%. That means that up to 95% of continuous improvement programs fail to rescue the operation and have no sustainable effect.

The data and my analysis do not claim to be exhaustive but I believe the TRUE ANSWER to the question is provided indirectly by the Lean Six Sigma group on LinkedIn.

Here’s what I discovered today. Continue reading “Why Most Lean Six Sigma Projects Fail?”

How do we hire the best professional Project Manager?

Law 7

Look at it this way: you are hiring a temporary General Manager who will run your business for some predefined period of time and deliver certain results.

Regardless of the nature of your business, you will expect your General Manager, above all, to be proficient in making things happen. If what bothers you the most is the candidate’s technical competence, then you must be looking for a technical lead, team coordinator, or some kind of a technician – but not for a real project manager. Continue reading “How do we hire the best professional Project Manager?”